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Dad, a dump truck & hitting the cemeteries
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The summer of my seventh year is the year I got to know my father and the year I lost him.

The year before dad sold his share in Wyatt’s Hardware – the Roseville store – leaving his brother Pershing to carry on with the family business that ended up spanning 80 years by keeping the Lincoln store open.

We moved back to Lincoln where dad opted to take a job as superintendent of the Lincoln Cemetery District.

Growing up in Roseville meant I grew up in the store. At an early age I was put to work at my insistence dusting.  Since I was a bit prone to accidents thanks to an eyesight problem that wasn’t detected for a couple of more years, dad assigned me the back of the store to dust where there were bins of nails and larger items that were essentially unbreakable at the hands of an overeager  young kid.

After I got my glasses, dad allowed me to dust the front of the store where the Pyrex, sporting goods, house wares, and various hardware items were stocked. My pay was a nickel a day and I felt like a Rockefeller.

Dad worked at the store six days a week. Sundays was typically a day off unless there was inventorying or stocking to do. If a client – the railroad, a contactor or a farmer - needed something, however, he’d be back at the store.

His job at the cemetery district wasn’t much different. It called for six to seven days of work. When dad did take off, it was either for a hunting or fishing trip. My brothers were into that, I tried but not being able to see well and an incident on Donner Lake where I cost dad a couple hundred dollars worth of tackle and poles put a damper on my enthusiasm for such endeavors.

As for sports, forget it.

That meant there was only one thing we could do together which was hang with him whenever he had to make Saturday or Sunday runs to check on the water at the cemeteries which included one eight miles up the road in Sheridan as well as Manzanita Cemetery out in the foothills northeast of Lincoln.

A chance to ride shotgun when my father drove the Chevrolet dump truck to make the rounds at the cemeteries in the Lincoln Cemetery District was cool beyond description. It didn’t matter to me that the reason dad never took my brothers was because they were too old to just hang with him. I was in seventh heaven.

He’d talk about politics, life, the hills, and just about anything that would cross his mind. I had a reputation at an early age for being a chatter box around adults but not around my dad.

I was always a bit intimidated by my dad. It may have been due more to the fact I spent more time with my mom. Even my excursions to the store were tied to times that mom had to go in to work the counter or do bookkeeping.

It was a big deal and a real treat to spend time with dad. My coordination level trying sports and at early an age thanks to my eyesight and then being teased non-stop for my clumsiness often reduced me to tears and effectively kept me out of tossing a baseball around with dad as he did with my brothers. I obviously wasn’t going to bond too well with dad if he tried to get me to play catch and he knew it too.

Perhaps that is why I hung on his every word whenever we were riding in the dump truck that summer. It was dad’s way of bonding with me.
That summer he died of a heart attack while mowing the grass at Lincoln Cemetery.

There is little doubt I get my work ethic from him, my mom as well as my grandmother who singlehandedly raised eight kids and ran a ranch after her husband ran off during the Depression.

I was fortunate enough, though, to get to know my dad even if it was simply riding with him as he talked that summer.
All kids need that from their dads – a bit of one-on-one attention just hanging out to make them feel special.